Last week I participated in a virtual tour of the Media Archaeology Lab. Amy and I are financial supporters, I gave them my vintage computer collection several years ago, and we’ve underwritten their acquisition of several collections. I believe the Media Archaeology Lab is now one of the largest collections of working vintage computers.
“Working” is an important part of the phrase. The team at the Media Archaeology Lab, including Dr. Lori Emerson and Dr. libi rose striegl are magicians who, along with many student volunteers, loving take care of, well, everything.
When most people who had an Apple ][ or Apple //e think of Zoom, they think of Zoom Telephonics or WGBH-TV’s Zoom.
When I saw bpNichol’s Computer Poems streaming on Zoom, I responded with, “Holy shit, this is awesome.” Yeah, that wasn’t very poetic of me.
A few minutes later, we saw Super Mario Bros. running on a Commodore 64. We talked about the history of Nintendo not liking this and their subsequent DMCA takedown notice. Some companies have no sense of nostalgia.
Here’s how you stream from an Apple //e to Zoom.
Here’s how you stream from a Commodore 64 to Zoom
If you want to see the full poem by bpNichol, here it is on Youtube.
If this is interesting to you, please consider making a cash donation to support the Media Archaeology Lab‘s operations. If you have vintage computers you’d like to donate, drop me an email.
For a long time, I collected computers (hardware, software, manuals, and magazines.) About five years ago, I donated my collection to the Media Archaeology Lab, located at CU Boulder. Also, Amy and I have made substantial gifts to MAL from the Anchor Point Foundation. And, last year, our gift enabled them to buy a vast collection from Benj Edwards.
On Thursday 1/21/21, at 5 pm, there will be a virtual tour of the Media Archaeology Lab collection. I need different things to do at the end of each day, so I’ll attend as a way to immerse myself in nerd history.
Join me. Given everything else going on right now, I think it’ll be a nice break.
Amy and I are big supporters of the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL). I love the idea of a computer museum and believe Boulder deserves to have a large one.
We’ve donated our computer collection to it, which includes my original Apple ][, my first portable computer (a Compaq luggable), an Apple III, an Apple Lisa, my original Mac 128K, a MITS Altair 8800b, a NeXTstation, and a bunch of other random stuff. Recently, my dad pitched in and contributed his entire cell phone and PDA collection, which included every cell phone he ever had.
MAL is located on the edge of the CU Boulder campus in a small building that they have outgrown. They have new space coming online in 2022, but until then they are looking for some additional space for both display and assembly purposes.
The display space needs to be near downtown Boulder or walking distance to the CU Boulder campus. This will be an extension of the existing public MAL space and, in the best case scenario, could actually be publicly accessible space. Worst case, it would be reservation-only space. Ideally, this would be anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet.
The assembly space can be further from downtown and can be warehouse style space. MAL currently has over 50% of its existing space consumed with physical equipment that needs to be cleaned, staged, and assembled. One of the magical things about MAL is that all the computers on display are fully functioning, which means there are a lot of mice, keyboards, and disk drives as backup parts for when things inevitably go bad.
While MAL doesn’t have any money to pay for the space, I expect we can arrange things so that the space is a charitable donation.
If you have some extra space, ideas for space, or old computer stuff you’d like to donate, drop me an email.
And, if you want to contribute financially to support MAL, we’ve set up the Anchor Point Fund for MAL (Media Archaeology Lab) at CU Boulder.
This is a picture of me completely and unapologetically engrossed in a game of Space Invaders on a VIC 20. Here’s an early commercial for it, featuring the one and only William Shatner.
Several weeks ago the team at the Media Archeology Lab (MAL) celebrated their accomplishments to date by hosting an event – called a MALfunction – for the community. Attendees include founders of local startups, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Colorado, students that are interested in computing history, and a few other friends. The vibe was electric – not because there were any open wires from the machines – because this was truly a venue and a topic that is a strong intersection between the university and the local tech scene.
Recently, Amy and I underwrote the Human Computer Interaction lab at Wellesley University. We did so not only because we believe in facilitating STEM and IT education for young women, but also because we both have a very personal relationship to the university and to the lab. Amy, on a weekly basis, speaks to the impact that Wellesley has on her life. I, obviously, did not attend Wellesley but I have a very similar story. My interest in technology came from tinkering with computers, machines, and software in the late 1970s and early 1980s, just like the collection that is curated by the MAL.
Because of this, Amy and I decided to provide a financial gift to the MAL as well as my entire personal computer collection which included an Apple II (as well as a bunch of software for it), a Compaq Portable (the original one – that looks like a sewing machine), an Apple Lisa, a NeXT Cube, and my Altair personal computer.
Being surrounded by these machines just makes me happy. There is a sense of joy to be had from the humming of the hard drives, the creaking of 30-year old space bars, and squinting at the less than retina displays. While walking back to my condo from the lab, I think I pinned down what makes me so happy while I’m in the lab. An anachronistic experience with these machines are: (1) a reminder of how far we have come with computing, (2) a reminder to never take computing for granted – it’s shocking what the label “portable computer” was applied to in 1990, and (3) a perspective of how much further we can innovate.
My first real computer was an Apple II. I now spend the day in front of an iMac, a MacBook Air, and an iPhone. When I ponder this, I wonder what I’ll be using in 2040? The experience of the lab is one of true technological perspective and those moments of retrospection make me happy.
In addition, I’m totally blown away by what the MAL director, Lori Emerson, and her small team has pulled off with zero funding. The machines at MAL are alive, working, and in remarkably good shape. Lori, who teaches English full time at CU Boulder, has created a remarkable computer history museum.
Amy and I decided to adopt MAL, and the idea of building a long term computer history museum in Boulder, as one of our new projects. My partner Jason Mendelson quickly contributed to it. If you are up for helping us ramp this up, there are three things you can do to help.
1. Give a financial gift via the Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor Fund for MAL (Media Archeaology Lab).
2. Contribute old hardware and software, especially stuff that is sitting in your basement.
3. Offer to volunteer to help get stuff set up and working.
If you are interested in helping, just reach out to me or Lori Emerson.